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Who can rig WHAT?

Rigging questions are common, with licensed riggers naturally protective of their turf, and regular crew equally curious what they can – and cannot – do. But everyone agrees, a rigging accident or disaster is the last thing anyone needs.

The launch of the Australian Entertainment Safety Resource Guide (AESRG) answers this, along with a blizzard of other issues, addressed in 21 chapters that include Height, Noise, Fire, Risk and Power.

The AESRG is clear, rigging work requires a High Risk License.

A freshly published guide, International Code of Practice for Entertainment Rigging – ICOPER – is also clear. You don’t rig things without a license or ticket.

ICOPER was partly written by Tiny Good and Nick Barnfield from NZ and is not just a European and American document. They are currently working on it being translated into Cantonese, and the Canadians, and Swedes are also doing translations.  They are working on it being adopted in Australia as the venue benchmark for shows from other countries coming to Australia, especially Asiapop and Bollywood.

Back to WHO can rig WHAT?

As James Ring from Pollard Productions in Sydney puts it, “the simple answer is “A Competent Person. Having a High Risk Work qualification you are deemed competent for the level of license you have obtained.”

To break this down, Tiny Good from Showtech Australia (the Melboune rigging firm who work all over Australasia) gave CX some straight advice. “You can hang a light using a hook onto a truss, or rig a line array under a header (frame) without a license. The truss and the header frame can only be rigged by a licensed rigger”.

Roderick van Gelder, author of the AESRG says “legislation sets out what requires a high risk work licences and classes of high risk work that are within the scope of each licence. It’s clear.”

So let’s break this out. There are four classes of rigger.

DOGGING is where in the field you select, inspect and use slings, shackles, wires and rigging equipment.

A BASIC RIGGER can attach a motor to an overhead structure and erect structures. A rigger can also do dogging work.

An INTERMEDIATE RIGGER can direct the operation of a multi motor lift, such as raising a truss, or a speaker cluster on more than 1 hoist. In this case they would not be the rigger operating the motor controller, rather they stand where they can monitor and direct the operation.

The ADVANCED RIGGER is the person you need for swing stages and flying people, guyed structures, and cableways or span lines

So what are your legal implications, if you undertake ‘RIGGING’ work without the appropriate License?

The most obvious problem is that the work you do will not be insured, or insurable. Secondly you will be potentially liable for industrial manslaughter charges if a death occurs. A Rigger also faces this risk if their work is deemed not competent.

Here’s a simple table:

Task Trained tech crew Dogger Basic Rigger Intermediate RIGGER Advanced RIGGER
# Hang light or speaker with hook Y Y Y Y Y
# Hang speakers from frame Y Y Y Y Y
# Attach screen to truss or frame Y Y Y Y Y
Sling truss from motor N Y Y Y Y
Hang chain motor N N Y Y Y
Operate single chain motor N* N Y Y Y
Operate multiple chain motors N N N Y Y
Rig or operate flygear for aerial actors N N N N Y

#  Hanging speakers or screens only when using specific designed and certified techniques.  Hanging speakers from a brand specific frame using brand & type specific hardware, yes.  Planning to do the same with a chain through the handle bars, NO!

* Operate Single Chain Motor: This is a very interesting question and refers to definitions. We have conflicting opinions on this one, so we recommend a NO but show the definitions below.

Tiny Good: “If a single chain hoist is used to suspend a load, and the load is already attached to the hoist, and the hoist is used not in a series operation then no license is required. A single chain hoist, or winch used to raise or lower a fly batten in a theatre for instance.

“According to the plant regulations:

  • A crane has 3 powered planes of operation
  • A crane has a lifting capacity of more than 3000Kg. WLL

“A hoist is a horizontal platform running on a mast or guided rails used to lift and or lower material, and or persons. (A chain hoist is not this).

“As an example the VACT fly crew do not need a license to operate the State theatre fly system, even though it is capable of running up to 113 lines simultaneously because each line only has 1 powered plane of operation, has a WLL of 750Kg. and has a load already attached. They do, however, need an intermediate or advanced rigger to oversee the operation when lifting loads with multiple battens in a load sharing situation.

Roderick van Gelder: “I have great respect for Tiny and his knowledge and experience in the industry, however I question his statement that a chain motor is not a hoist. As does Andrew Mathieson of Jands in a series of articles in CX, follow this link.

As always, AESRG invited comment and debate. Please use the COMMENTS area below.




November 29 2017 Reply

There is a second article by Andrew Mathieson that follows the first in the link.

Tyler Henderson

November 30 2017 Reply

Once again people who dont earn the money are trying to write the rules. After reading this it looks to me you just pulled this out of your ass. You barely have a clue on what a rigger does and have not read the legislation correctly. I dont know where to begin with all the stupid in this article.


November 30 2017 Reply

Tiny is not saying its not a ‘hoist’, he is saying it’s not a hoist as described in the Plant regulations, which refers to a construction materials hoist that uses a tower or mast as a form of support.
There are other questionable answers or grey areas, that make it important to get some regulations that cover ‘entertainment rigging’ into Australia ASAP

Matthias Conway

July 23 2018 Reply


I’ve reviewed the above article and find the categorisation of HRW Licences to be debateable. I understand where the classifications are coming from as per WHS regulations and associated documents (mainly for construction work etc). However, from my experience the HRWL training being stated as required to undertake this work doesn’t actually cover anything relevant to the entertainment industry.

For example, in my dogger and basic riggers course We didn’t touch a chain motor or a piece of truss. I’d expect that intermediate courses don’t teach you how to sling multiple motors onto truss either, and the advanced riggers definitely doesn’t deliver a course on how to fly performers.

My argument is that anyone can go through the motion of getting the right piece of paper but not necessarily get taught the appropriate know-how.
How can we categorise something when the categories we are using don’t support the technique or skill required? Are there training providers that deliver these required HRWL courses that actually cover some content relevant to entertainment rigging?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Rhianna Hawk

September 29 2018 Reply

I appreciate your guide on the new regulations, and knowing the four classes of rigger is very beneficial to me while I’m preparing to take a course on dogging. My new job is moving me into the rigging department, and it’s good to know that I’ll be able to help sling truss after I’m trained. It’s also good to know what things I won’t yet be certified to do, and getting trained in those areas will no doubt be my next step after dogging training.

Martin Ramminger

November 23 2018 Reply

Hi guys! I am a dogger and rigger. I have a question regarding “What is a STANDARD LIFT”. We have several gantry cranes at work. I am on the Health and Safety Committee. We are attempting to put a SOP in place . We need to identify this so employees can operate these cranes in a safe manner. Kind Regards Marty

Rodrigo Tapia

February 24 2020 Reply

Matthias Conway,

Good to see someone else has spotted gaps in the system… Hopefully amendments will be made to improve industry practices.

The ETCP (Theatre & Arena) certification is quite good and has great insight. Stunt, aerial, marine and rope access rigging will certainly be an excellent addition too.

Great to see people coming together to create this forum and the ICOPER!

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